A word about Lye The one thing in homemade soap you can’t substitute is lye. You should always use 100% sodium hydroxide, or lye in crystal form. Don’t substitute liquid lye or drain cleaners such as Drano. These may cause inaccurate measurements or have bits of metal in them. You don’t want either. Lye is caustic. It can eat holes in fabric and cause burns on your skin. Always be extra careful when using lye. Use gloves and eye protection and a mask if desired. When you mix the lye with water, it will heat up and fume for about 30 seconds to a minute. It may cause a choking sensation in your throat. Don’t worry, it’s not permanent and will go away after a few minutes. Always add lye to water (not water to lye), and start stirring right away. If allowed to clump on the bottom, it could heat up all at once and cause an explosion. Even though lye is caustic and dangerous to work with, after it reacts with the oils in your soap (through a process called saponification), no lye will remain in your finished soap. Equipment When making soap, use equipment that will not be used for cooking. While you could clean everything really well, it’s best not to take a chance. Stainless steel, tempered glass and enamel are all good choices for mixing bowls. Don’t use copper or aluminum, they will react with the lye. Some plastics may melt, so don’t use plastic bowls. For spoons, use styrene plastic or silicone. For molds, you can get soap molds at your local craft store or online here, or use silicone baking pans. These are great because you can peel the mold right off. Other things you want to have are a pint and a quart canning jar, newspaper, a stainless steel thermometer that reads between 90° and 200°, an old towel, and any additions you want to add to the soap. Additives There are as many variations of soap as there are colors in the rainbow. You can literally do almost anything. Here are the basics of additives: Herbs All herbal material must be dried. Lavender is popular, as well as chamomile. I love lemongrass and oakmoss, though not together. Use about ¼ cup of dried plant material per batch of this size. Essential Oils Essential oils are from plants. They come from the roots, stems, flowers or seeds. Fragrance oils can be blends of essential oils or they can be artificially produced. Be sure you know what you have. Most oils can be used at the rate of 15-20 drops or around a teaspoon per batch of this size. Colors Natural colors are easy. Use cinnamon or cocoa powder for a brown soap, powdered chlorophyll for green, turmeric for yellow and beet root for orange. However, sometimes things change colors, like magenta beet powder turning yellowish orange. I would avoid food colors since they don’t hold up well in soap. Other items This would include aloe vera gel, oatmeal, dry milk powder, clays, cornmeal, ground coffee, salt and anything else you may want to use.more
Adapted from diynatural.com
cup coconut oil – to produce good lather
cup olive oil – which makes a hard and mild bar
cup other liquid oil – like almond oil, grapeseed, sunflower of safflower oil
cup lye – also called 100% sodium hydroxide
cup cool water – use distilled or purified
Cover your work area with newspaper. Put your gloves and other protective wear on. Measure your water into the quart canning jar. Have a spoon ready. Measure your lye, making sure you have exactly ¼ cup. Slowly pour the lye into the water, stirring as you go. Stand back wile you stir to avoid the fumes. When the water starts to clear, you can allow it to sit while you move to the next step. In the pint jar, add your three oils together. They should just make a pint. Heat in a microwave for about a minute, or place the jar of oils in a pan of water to heat. Check the temperature of your oils – it should be about 120° or so. Your lye should have come down by then to about 120°. Wait for both to cool somewhere between 95° and 105°. This is critical for soap making. Too low and it’ll come together quickly, but be coarse and crumbly. When both the lye and oils are at the right temperature, pour the oils into a mixing bowl. Slowly add the lye, stirring until it’s all mixed. Stir by hand for a full 5 minutes. it’s very important to get as much of the lye in contact with as much of the soap as possible. After about 5 minutes, you can keep stirring or you can use a stick or immersion blender. The soap mixture will lighten in color and become thick. When it looks like vanilla pudding, it’s at “trace” and you’re good to go. Add your herbs, essential oils or other additions at this point. Stir thoroughly to combine. Pour the mixture into mold(s) and cover with plastic wrap. Set in an old towel and wrap it up. This will keep the residual heat in and start the saponification process. Saponification is the process of the base ingredients becoming soap. After 24 hours, check your soap. If it’s still warm or soft, allow it to sit another 12-24 hours. When it’s cold and firm, turn it out onto a piece of parchment paper or baking rack. If using a loaf pan, cut into bars. Allow soap to cure for 4 weeks or so. Be sure to turn it over once a week to expose all the sides to air (which is not necessary if using a baking rack). For a DIY soap drying rack, I took an old potato chip rack and slid cardboard fabric bolts (from a fabric store) through the rungs. When your soap is fully cured, wrap it in wax paper or keep it in an airtight container. Hand made soap creates its own glycerin, which is a humectant, pulling moisture from the air. It should be wrapped to keep it from attracting dust and debris with the moisture. Clean up When you’re done making soap, always clean your equipment that has been exposed to lye. You can neutralize the lye with white vinegar, then wash the equipment well as you normally would. For the rest of it, let it sit for several days. Why? Because when you first make soap, it’s all fat and lye. You’ll be washing forever and you could burn your hands on the residual lye. If you wait, it becomes soap and all it takes to clean it is a soak in hot water.